Total's takeover bid: the electroshock that unlocked the strike situation in Elf
3 questions… about the TOTALFINA & ELF merger…
What was your initial reaction to the announcement of the project?
At the time of the merger, Elf was going through a period of strikes following the implementation by Philippe Jaffré of a performance plan. In the midst of turmoil, the announcement of the public bid was like a thunderclap! As Elf's expatriation manager, I was quickly contacted by branch managers and HR managers around the world because they were worried. It was a shock, but we were so mired in the Elf strike that we thought it could, somehow, unlock the situation ...
How did you experience the merger on a daily basis?
After the stock market battle of the summer with the counterattack of Elf, we found ourselves on the side of the losers, hence some concern, especially among those who exercised support functions such as human resources ... which was my case! But very quickly, I was involved in Totalfina-Elf working groups aiming to understand the culture of each other’s and to see how to get closer to quite different HR policies: Elf, very marked by its origin as a national society, had a very linear career progression, while Total was in a business logic, with a much more differentiated remuneration progression dynamic. Another example of expatriation: in the calculation of expatriation allowances to countries with a very high cost of living, the only criterion retained by Elf was the number of family members, and not at all the level of salary of the expatriate employee. At Total, it was the opposite! In order to harmonize the practices, we set up a mix of the two criteria. It was the same for many subjects. In this regard, I wish to emphasize that, under the leadership of Thierry Desmarest, all the commitments made in the logic of a merger of equals have been fulfilled. He was inflexible on this point, which proved to be a key success factor.
What is the most memorable memory you have of this period?
I have several to tell the truth! We have gradually discovered the breadth and diversity of our new Group! The first Sainte Barbe, for example, in the presence of many binational couples, many expatriates having founded home in their host country! One could easily identify their original society, the French-African couples generally coming from Elf and the French-Asian couples of Total. Another strong memory goes back to the day we put small flags on a world map to mark our locations in the world. This is where we took the dimension of the new set ... and we saw that we really played in the big leagues! Come on, one last anecdote: an engineer from Elf who had an excellent stroke of a pencil published daily "crobards" humorously illustrating the mood of the teams. His machine turning the "blues" into "purple" to the despair of Total's elders who did not find the "original red" had a great success, also taken by Christophe de Margerie during one of his first interventions in Pau!